The need to promote responsible tourism is paramount, and it is against this background that the Child Protection Alliance-CPA, with support from ECPAT Netherlands, recently held a two-day capacity building training for Hoteliers, Tourist Securities, media practitioners and police officers on Code of Conduct of Gambia Tourism Board for child protection from sexual exploitation and child sex tourism.
Held at Baobab Hotel and Resort in Kololi, Mr. Njundu Drammeh, Executive Director of Child Protection Alliance the participants that each year over one million children are exploited in the global sex trade, most often this constitutes child trafficking, child pornography and the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourist destinations.
Drammeh defined Child Sex Tourism (CST) as sexual exploitation of children by men or women who travel from one place to another and there engage in sexual acts with children under the age of eighteen years.
He went on to state that the act is lucrative and ubiquitous practice affecting an estimated two million children worldwide, every year.
This CST, he observed, is especially prevalent in Asia, Central and South America, while this crisis is more pronounce in the aforementioned regions. Tourists from nearly every country in the world fuel the sex industry and the demand for young children, said Drammeh.
According to him, today the number of children victims of sex tourism continues to rise globally; even though child sex tourism has existed for decades the practice has exploded in recent years due in large part to rapid globalization of trade and growth of tourism industry.
The inter-linked social and technological factors such as lack of education, discrimination against girl-children, widespread poverty, poor law enforcement, corruption and advance in information sharing through the internet have exacerbated the problem,he stated.
Drammeh went on to note that there are three types of child sex tourists and these are situational child sex tourists, preferential child sex tourist and paedophiles and this includes various forms of child sex abuses either by way of experimentation or through the anonymity and impunity afforded by tourists or he /she may have the capacity to experience sexual attraction for adults but will actively seek out minors for sexual contact and manifestation of an exclusive sexual inclination for pre-pubescent children.
Mr. Adama Bah from Travel Foundation Gambia said promoting responsible, ethical and sustainable tourism is paramount and needs to have all hands on deck to protect the minors from all forms of exploitations.
The industry (Hoteliers) should not only focuses on economic gains but should also take responsibilities in committing to ethical principles, create consumer awareness, staff training, consultation/collaboration with stakeholders, social and environmental monitoring and evaluation to determine progress amongst others.
Mr. Bah stated that CPA and UNICEF are working tirelessly with Gambia Tourism Board in combating, preventing child sex tourism, thus promote responsible tourism in The Gambia.
Mr.Ousman Kebbeh of Gambia Tourism Board (GTB), noting some of the ways and techniques of combating child sex, posited for government institutions, private sector,non-governmental organisations and stakeholders to work together to ensure that any perpetrators found wanting face the full laws.
The GTB official believes that could only be effective if all actors are involved in the enforcement of the laws, implementation and collaborate.
This collaboration, Kebbeh stated, need to be with stakeholders, and that could be done through massive sensitization using all means of dispatching information including community, schools, one to one and fora to ensure that the right information filtered down at the grassroots levels.
Assistant General Manager of Paradise Suite Hotel, Mr. Dawda Baldeh said some of the victims of child sex tourism often come from socio-economical disadvantaged backgrounds.
The victims, Baldeh said are both girls and boys; children selling or working on the streets around the tourism development area.
Children from dysfunctional families, hinted, could easily fall victim to child sex tourism.